Photon Radiation Treatment

October, 201

My first Photon Radiation Treatment followed an earlier appointment for me to get fitted for a mold for my treatments.This would keep me in the correct position for the beams to hit their target. I had to have a “dry run” too. This means a practice session to make sure that all mapping that was done earlier  was accurate. I had to get into a hospital gown and lay on the table with my arms over my head. The machine is awesome and is called a Varian. We would become friends over the next three weeks.

This is the big baby, my hope for the future. My machine!

Photon Radiation Treatment
True Beam machine (Varian)

It was a new True Beam machine (Varian)


I was scheduled to have five treatments of Photon Radiation treatments, two a week until October 31st. This meant that my first week started with the dry run on Monday the 16th, then the real thing on Tuesday and Thursday of that week. With getting up early, taking the train (always 15 minutes late), then the subway, I was tired already!! And I was very nervous. Would the train be too late again? We were late the first day because the train was late but they took me anyway. Dave had decided that we’d pack lunches rather he would make them and pack them because my treatments were at lunch time. I drank water sparingly because I didn’t want to be wiggling on the table with the need to pee.

I don’t know why, but even when other cancer patients are sitting and waiting their turn in their gowns it’s still embarrassing the first time you walk out from the dressing room. It’s like, does the gown make me look fat?  Am I the one to carry this off so well that it doesn’t matter? There was just so damn much to think about. At least I could keep my pants on. So anyone trying to guess who had what, at least they weren’t thinking that I had something wrong down there.  Some people were dozing, some looked very sick and gray and others didn’t look ill at all. I hoped that I fit into that category!

The nurse called my name shortly after I sat down. That “walk” is a display of how tall and confident you could appear even if you were shaking from head to toe, wondering if you made the right choice in your treatment. Wondering if Photo Beam Therapy would work. So with confidence I entered the room and tried to get on the table with aplomb. I’m short and the stool didn’t quite make it easy to get over the rails. The sheet over the mold prevents any chance of being graceful. No slipping into the mold. Once I was in the approximate position the nurses had me raise my legs for the leg cushion and there was a squeak. It was not the pillow support.

I was asked what kind of music I wanted to hear and then they adjusted my position so the beams would hit their mark perfectly. The machine was huge as you see in the photo. I didn’t feel as small as the picture shows because I was its focus. It was all about me now – all about staying perfectly still, breathing evenly and steadily. And I talked to the machine. I instructed to kill all the cancer. Then I thought, what if this machine falls on me? Would I get free radiation after that? Or maybe I wouldn’t be around for anymore. What did the cancer cells feel when being killed? Were they yelling? Screaming? Did they hate me? I wanted to know it the Photon Radiation were really beams focused perfectly on my cancer and their boundaries?

Before I knew it, my time was up. The first thing I did was bring my arms over my head and over my chest to stretch them. God it felt great, like a good yawn or rubbing your eyes, opening blood vessels, feeling the warmth and life come back into them. But then I panicked trying not to make any noises when getting off the table. When I left the room I took the wrong turn and had to back-track.  With every step I could feel relief building and energy drain from me like an oozing hose with a leak. I finished with my first treatment walking on a cloud.

Me and my photon beam machine True Beam machine (Varian)



3 thoughts on “Photon Radiation Treatment

  1. Dave O'Neill says:

    Thank you Merry for this introduction to the process. I will start with surgery and if tumor site has clean “margins” and the tumor is well encapsulated I may not need radiation, but there is good chance that it has spread outside the affected organ, so I think I have a good chance of experiencing what you are describing in terms of the gown and walk you describe.

    • Merry says:

      Dave, both David and I are pulling for you!!! It’s not a fun trip but you are strong and will have much to say about your experience I’m sure. Please remember to tie your gown in the back!! When you are full of drugs someone might have to remind you of that. lol

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